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Ezra Miller's Flash Cameo: Why DC Movies and TV Were Separate Until Now

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Now that Ezra Miller’s version of the Flash from the Justice League and Batman v Superman movie universe has shown up in the Arrowverse — and met Grant Gustin’s incarnation of the Scarlet Speedster! — it opens up a whole host of questions in terms of storytelling possibilities and crossover potential between DC’s live-action characters.But the surprising collision of heroes from the big and small screens in Crisis on Infinite Earths also highlights how long the division between the two has been going on, and how sharp that separation has been, unlike the competition over at Marvel — which has moved movie characters like Nick Fury, Agent Coulson, Peggy Carter, and Lady Sif to TV over the years.

Indeed, it has long been a corporate mandate that DC movie characters would not appear on shows like Arrow or The Flash, but also that certain figures — such as Batman, for example — couldn’t even be named in the Arrowverse.

The Smallville Era and the ‘No Batman’ Rule

While DC has had a live-action presence on television as far back as 1952’s George Reeves-starring Adventures of Superman, for all intents and purposes the modern era of DC superhero TV began with Smallville in 2001. While not originally connected to its descendant shows of the Arrowverse — though that recently changed thanks to Tom Welling and Erica Durance’s cameo during Crisis — the WB series has often been credited for paving the way for Arrow, The Flash, and the rest.

But not even Clark Kent could smash the barrier between movies and TV during that show’s decade-long run, and there were restrictions in place during its time on the air that handicapped the show’s writers when it came to trying to fully flesh out what a DC TV series could be… restrictions that remained long after Smallville was gone, in fact.

While the show did slowly introduce a variety of DC heroes over the years, one character was always off-limits: Batman. This was due to the fact that at that time Warner Bros. was developing a new series of movies featuring the character, which eventually became the Dark Knight trilogy. "It's a very clear statement: You can't use Bruce Wayne," executive producer Miles Millar said at the time.Ezra Miller Cameos on Arrowverse's Crisis on Infinite Earths CrossoverMillar and his partner Alfred Gough revealed that Wonder Woman was also being reserved for the big screen, which is funny considering how long it took for the Amazon princess to finally get there (including, as it turns out, a pit-stop in a 2011 David E. Kelley TV pilot starring Adrianne Palicki that did not get picked up as a series). Meanwhile, fan speculation had Ian Somerhalder's short-lived Season 3 character Adam Knight pegged as a Bruce Wayne stand-in, but that theory never paid off.

Why the Arrowverse and the DCEU Never Crossed Over Before Crisis on Infinite Earths

This mindset continued into the era of the Arrowverse, which launched in 2012 (one year after Smallville ended). But interestingly, despite the TV and movies remaining separated for the last decade, it seems that certain parties on the creative side of the Warner Bros./DC Entertainment hierarchy have always seen the potential of combining the movies and TV worlds via the concept of a multiverse, which is exactly what happened in Crisis.

"We look at it as the multiverse,” said Geoff Johns in 2014. The popular comics scribe and screenwriter was Chief Creative Officer of DC Entertainment at the time. “We have our TV universe and our film universe, but they all co-exist. For us, creatively, it’s about allowing everyone to make the best possible product, to tell the best story, to do the best world. Everyone has a vision and you really want to let the visions shine through. I think the characters are iconic enough. I like [Marvel’s Agents of] SHIELD a lot. I love what Marvel does. I’m a huge fan. It’s just a different approach."Meanwhile, Johns’ boss Diane Nelson, who was president of DC Entertainment from 2009 to 2018, had a different stance. “We’re so talent driven,” Nelson told Variety the following year. “[The focus on a single universe of characters with connected storylines] could end up handcuffing our creators into trying to work with the same storyline or force them to hold back characters or introduce certain characters. Ultimately it hinders the ability for someone like [showrunner] Bruno Heller to come in and create Gotham.”

Using Gotham as an example of why not to cross over your characters is perhaps not the best look, but hindsight is 20/20. Still, it’s clear that Nelson’s mandate during her tenure was that the TV and movies were separate things and never the twain should meet. And this approach may also have been a result, according to a 2017 report by Vulture, of Nelson and Johns reportedly being “largely shut out from the big screen” by Warner CEO Kevin Tsujihara during the early days of the DCEU. DC needed to compete with the MCU, the thinking went, and TV was apparently not a part of that plan.

Further complicating the potential for interconnectivity between the ever-growing slate of DC TV shows was the fact that while Warner Bros. was responsible for producing titles like the Arrowverse series, Gotham, Krypton, Titans, and Doom Patrol, a variety of network and distribution platforms were airing or streaming these shows, from The CW to Fox to Syfy to DC Universe and more. Hence, sharing characters and talent would be a complicated endeavor.That said, when Supergirl was airing on CBS in its first season, a Flash crossover was arranged. But then again, CBS and The CW do fall under the same corporate banner, Supergirl also came from Arrowverse Executive Producer Greg Berlanti, and indeed the show wound up making its home on The CW the following year. (In fact, that first Supergirl/Flash crossover established the soon-to-be trope of having heroes cross universes in order to team up, while also helping to teach audiences about the concept of the multiverse itself.)

How Ezra Miller’s Flash Cameo Came to Be

Obviously times are a-changing over at Warner Bros. and DC Entertainment. A willingness to embrace formerly off-limits characters has slowly emerged, as Batwoman became a part of the Arrowverse — not quite Batman, but a character rooted in that world — even while an older Bruce Wayne himself showed up on Titans Season 2, played by Iain Glen (after a dream episode featuring a killer Batman closed that show’s Season 1). And most recently, we finally got a flesh-and-blood Bruce Wayne in the Arrowverse via Kevin Conroy’s not very nice Batman in part two of Crisis on Infinite Earths.

In a statement to IGN, DC’s Chief Creative Officer and Publisher Jim Lee commented on how the Ezra Miller cameo came to be. “There were a lot of people at Warner Bros. who collaborated to make this Multiverse scene happen,” he said. “Walter Hamada, the head of DC films, and I were happy to work with [Arrowverse Executive Producers] Greg [Berlanti] and Marc [Guggenheim] to wrangle the elements to deliver an epic experience for fans.” (IGN reached out for comment from Walter Hamada but we have not received a response by the time of publish.)Every Character in the Arrowverse's Crisis on Infinite Earths CrossoverWhen one of those fans pondered on Twitter “how many kidneys” it cost Guggenheim to get Ezra Miller’s Flash to show up, the EP responded, “I literally had to grow two extra.” In a separate tweet, Guggenheim gave Jim Lee much more credit than the CCO seems to want to take himself. “I’m doing a few interviews [Wednesday] and I’m sure the subject of Ezra’s appearance will come up, but what you need to know right now is that gentleman and scholar, @JimLee, was instrumental in making this moment happen,” he tweeted.

Indeed, sources inside DC Entertainment tell us they’ve been waiting a long time to confirm that all these characters — on the big and small screens — live in the same multiverse.

In an interview with Variety, Guggenheim explained that Warner Bros. Television Group President and CCO Peter Roth called him and asked if they could fit Miller into the crossover. Even though the episode was basically already locked, Guggenheim said he could make it happen. “I called Eric Wallace who is the showrunner of Flash, and he called up Grant Gustin — because the one thing that was our only concern was the thought we didn’t want to do it unless Grant was 100 percent on-board with it,” recalled the EP. “And he was. He was incredibly enthusiastic and on-board with it. And then we got on the phone with Ezra Miller and told him the scene I had written and he was completely into it.”Crisis on Infinite Earths Crossover PhotosPerhaps the fact that Diane Nelson stepped down from her position at DC Entertainment in 2018 helped clear the way for more interconnectedness (in the past couple of years Kevin Tsujihara and Geoff Johns also left their roles at Warner Bros. and DC respectively, though Johns is still involved with various DC projects in a writer-producer capacity). But surely the current regime at Warners and DC have noted the move Kevin Feige’s MCU is making into the TV arena now via Disney+. Characters like Agent Coulson and Peggy Carter were toe-dips into the TV space but now Marvel is going all-in with a variety of shows that tie directly back to the big screen and feature established A-list players like Falcon, the Winter Soldier, Hawkeye, Loki, Scarlet Witch and Vision, as well as new characters such as She-Hulk and Moon Knight. The barrier between the TV and movie MCU is about to go away, so why shouldn’t DC do the same?

It remains to be seen what, if any, impact this crossover between DC’s movies and TV shows will have on future projects. Is this a one-off, or will such cameos or team-ups become a recurring aspect of the DC world? Might Grant Gustin show up in Miller’s planned Flash solo movie? Could Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam make an appearance on Stargirl (they’re both members of the JSA after all!)? Imagine if Robert Pattinson’s Batman arrived in Batwoman’s Gotham City one day? Or will it be as simple as Miller’s Barry Allen calling himself “The Flash” in his forthcoming standalone movie, which fans will know is because he got the idea from Grant Gustin’s Barry in the Crisis crossover?

The possibilities are infinite…

Talk to Executive Editor Scott Collura on Twitter at @ScottCollura, or listen to his Star Trek podcast, Transporter Room 3. Or do both!

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